The meal plan chat

Meal plans can be both savours and preventers in recovery and weight restoration.

I have been on three meal plans in my recovery. An obsessive meal plan which was given to me by the NHS where everything had to be weighed to the specific gram, a meal plan from my private nutritionist which was very helpful and it was encouraged me to eat more frequently and not skip meals and finally my third meal plan which is the ‘Margi meal plan’ which is just the best and where my meals are intuitive.

Now I’m not going to shame meal plans as I believe that at times in my recovery they made some really positive movements, however I am going to tell you my personal experience with all three of these meal plans.

In the first meal plan that was provided by the NHS I had the responsibility to weigh my meals. This meant that I either always restricted and ate less grams then what was recommended as I felt that their recommendation was almost the ‘maximum’ to gain 0.5g per week so therefore I had to make it less to feel like my weight gain ‘safe’. Or I would become so obsessive or the exact gram that if I went a gram over or under it felt like the end of the world. I even weighed my slices of bread as the meal plan would specify ‘100 grams’ of bread rather than just saying ‘two slices of bread’ (which two slices usually is). But it was so exact that I would pick of seeds or parts of crusts to make it 100 grams on the dot. This wasn’t normal or productive to my recovery. Anorexia is a very illogical, obsessive and ridged mental illness and I personally feel that a meal plan like this one only made me dig deeper into my bad habits.

Now as for meal plan two which was given to me by my private nutritionist, Jasmine Challis who works specifically in eating disorders in dancers. She is the Royal Ballets and White lodges personal nutritionist and she funnily had my brother for an assembly at White before she met me. She’s a wonderful woman and I really recommend her.

Jasmine gave me a meal plan that was broken up into 6 different meals and within each section was a balance space in which no meal, gram or food had been written. We were going to write it ourselves and together. At the time this felt both scary but also like a beckon of light. Together we planned a ‘rough’ idea of my meals, ‘rough’ meaning no weighing food! She too believed this was a very backward thing the NHS ti encourage. So instead 45 grams of cereal with 300 ml milk with 100 grams of bread with 32 grams of chosen spread became one bowl of cereal and milk with two slices of bread and spread. Much more normal! And in many ways it actually helped me to eat more and be more free and my oh my it saved so much time! I used to have to weigh my spread and when it was sticky this was not fun!

However I had to wave goodbye to the meal plan from Jasmine too as when I became weight restored I was still following the habits of the meal plan which meant that I was sometimes eating when I wasn’t hungry and I was sometimes eating snacks that I possibly didn’t need anymore. I also think that it put up a wall that stopped me from listening to my body and my energy levels. I began to notice that my body was beginning to disagree with my meal plan. So jasmine and I did an experiment and she took away my meal plan for a two week trail and simply told me to never leave my body for more than four hours without food, to listen to my body and to enjoy trusting it!

I went back for an appointment with Jasmine after those two weeks and I don’t think I have communicated with such thrill before. I told her how incredible the past two weeks had felt almost like I was tearing open Christmas itself. I honestly can’t tell you how beautiful it feels to listen to your own hunger calls rather than reading a timetable of meals.

I never skipped a meal, I always refuelled my body but I ate what I wanted when I wanted. I wasn’t one hundred percent intuitive but (give me a break guys) it had only been two weeks. I do know however that it certainly encouraged my intuitive eating and I knew that if I continued to trust my body, not restrict and to carry on visiting Jasmine every now and again that my future of intuitive eating and a healthy relationship with food was very bright…

And now I speak you from the future where I can say that it is very-very bright indeed. 

Photography by: Rebecca Alison

Photography by: Rebecca Alison

Margherita Barbieri